Jan. 28 10 a.m.
Everyone has been talking about a longer-than-expected primary season, and a brokered convention (wishful thinking for ink-stained wretches), but with each passing day John Kerry is looking stronger and stronger. He's no longer the presumptive frontrunner, but instead the frontrunner. All the outgoing artilleryfrom the other Democratic candidates, from Republicans, from the mediais aimed at him. He'll have to deal with it.
What he'll have to handle in coming hours are questions related to character. The media is taking shots at his syrupy, heavy, rhetoric-laden speaking style. Chris Suellentrop bashes him nicely in a salon.com piece titled "The Mystery of Kerrymania." After you read this piece, you'll never listen to a Kerry speech the same way again. And while I was listening to the Roundtable this morning, Dan Casse was ripping him for all manner of snobbish phraseology, using such language last night as "this band of brothers" when referring to his Vietnam war veteran buddies. Why not call them "this group of guys?"
I think the guy will have a hard time relating. Meanwhile, his wife last night looked like she had either done a whole lot of yoga before the speech or had gotten into the in-room bar. Her whole vibe was like, "This is groovy. I hope this high doesn't go away." As opposed to Judy Dean, whose body language seemed to say, "I'd rather be mowing the lawn."
So they all come South, and while I don't feel sorry for Clark, who misread the playbook and couldn't field a new plan after Kerry beat Dean in Iowa, I do think Edwards might have deserved more than he got. A week more, with his support building, and he might have been a contender. If Edwards can't win this thing, then I think he's the presumptive number two candidate for Kerry. I say a lot of things, but I feel strongly about this. EDWARDS FOR VICE PRESIDENT.
Dan Cornfield, a sociologist who runs the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, won the election pool in my morning Starbucks coffee group. Cornfield predicted Kerry at 38 percent, Dean at 24, Clark at 15, Edwards at 10, Lieberman at 9 and other candidates at 4. For all the candidates he was only off by 11 percentage points total. His prize is that every other participant in the pool (there were 10 of us) must buy him coffee. In second place was local attorney Irwin "Tivo" Kuhn.
I liked Todd Purdum's piece this morning in The New York Times, having read it last night after taking my daughter to TPAC to see Oklahoma. (He quotes Robert Frost, and anybody who can write a page 1 daily newspaper piece on the presidential race and get away with quoting American poetry to prove a point is cool.) Unfortunately, I missed most of the New Hampshire TV coverage, but I hear Chris Matthews' Hardball, once again, was the show to watch. But nothing, really, could rival watching what was a packed performing arts center rise to its feet in a standing ovation for Oklahoma when the final curtain fell.
Nashville is a city tuned into American culture in about the year 1950. Looks like Bush country to me.
Jan. 26, 3:25 p.m.
New Hampshire's basically over, so if you're bored by the last-minute coverage, visit www.presidentmatch.com and take the site's issues test. Depending on your answers, it will assign you a presidential candidate that best matches your ideology.
Don't ask me why, but it told me I should vote for Al Sharpton. Lieberman was second, Kerry third. Scene publisher Albie Del Favero got Kerry as his first choice. Meanwhile, Bush was dead last on his list. Who says all publishers are pigs?
My morning coffee group at Starbucks (liberal leaning, except for one lonely neocon from Vandy) is sponsoring a pool in which we guess the primary outcome in New Hampshire by assigning percentages to the candidates. The losers have to buy the winner coffee for one week, unless the state attorney general gets wind of this and busts us for gambling. Bring him on. My predictions are:
Kerry 32%, Dean 23%, Lieberman 15%, Clark 15%, Edwards 15%.
Jan. 26, 10 a.m.
A couple of noteworthies...
David Broder on this Sunday's Meet the Press says that it's highly likely we're headed into a protracted, "old-fashioned" fight for delegates. The nominating process could be one of those in which candidates don't get out if they lose because no single candidate is able to command top billing.
Broder, who, despite his age keeps his ear closer to the ground by talking to voterslots of themwherever he goes, also opines that a number of Republicans are saying George Bush skipped a beat in his State of the Union address. Broder says the speech was about a nation at war, but most people don't feel like we're at war.
Yes, Bush is clueless.
Broder commends David Brooks (who not too long ago was dining in Belle Meade at the home of local conservative philosopher Daniel Casse) for also making the same argument that Bush isn't where America is right now. Brooks, meanwhile, had a first-rate piece in Saturday's New York Times in which he both built Kerry up and tore him down. Brooks says Kerry has been willing to challenge orthodox liberalism but can't stick with his convictions in the legislative arena. He compares Kerry with John McCain, saying both are willing to eschew party ideology because of their open-mindedness. But Brooks says McCain is so dogged he ultimately gets results while Kerry doesn't.
I bet Brooks wins a Pulitzer this year.
Feel free to e-mail Bruce Dobie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan. 24, 8:42 a.m.
Has John Kerry got this nomination? I've refused to believe it, but here we are five days post-Iowa and he's still got the microphone. A helluva lot of Southerners are having a hard time believing the party's gonna nominate an Ivy Leaguer from Massachusetts, but when I entertained the notion sometime yesterday I didn't get too upset. I kind of surprised myself.
It was when I saw Kerry on TV in a New Hampshire town meeting and he was answering a question on health care, and his answers were not only reasonable but smart. I said to myself, "OK, if someone holds a gun to my head I can live with this." I also asked myself, "Has he dropped some of that painful, snobbish Boston accent?" Perhaps it was just that, as a Southerner, I'd lost some of my suspicion of the guy. I don't know.
Then I envisioned a Kerry-Edwards ticket. And when I saw what I had wrought I was well pleased.
One amazing thing Kerry has been able to do is smush the candidacy, at least temporarily, of Clark. Actually, Wesley Clark may have done it to himself. He's stretched himself too thin. The man who acknowledged voting for Reagan also has McGovern endorsing him, and voters are very confused about his ideological center. Clark is probably confused about himself. Who wouldn't be.
I like what Edwards is up to. Looks to me like he knows that at best he can only get out of New Hampshire in third or fourth. But then he figures Clark will lose momentum when he does worse than expected in New Hampshire. So as they come South, Edwards figures he'll capitalize on Clark's poor finish and replace the general as the candidate for the Bubbas. Then it's Edwards vs. Kerry, mano a mano.
I have to say Dean looks more comfortable as a loser. He's finally found his place.
Jan. 23, 11:15 a.m.
At my regular morning Starbucks gathering, the table informally voted on Howard Dean’s survivability. Those voting included: a Vanderbilt professor, a lawyer (one of the top 25 in the city, according to nashvillepost.com), a federal judge, a newspaper editor (me) and another lawyer active in human rights issues. All gave him the thumbs-down. That makes it a three-person race, considering that Lieberman is coming up toast too.
So what we’ve got is the sunshine of Edwards, the Big Mo of John Kerry, and Clark, who is kind of stuck in a swamp of ill self-definition. At the debate last night, Clark had a couple of opportunities to jack the ball out of the park, but he just played it safe throughout the Q&A. Kerry did just finewhich is probably what he needed to do to guard his front-runner status. Edwards, though, gets the gold star for the way he bested Fox reporter Brit Hume, who was heavily laden with evil right-wing thoughts. Hume decided to throw the gay-marriage question at Edwards, but Edwards declined to engage. Instead, he deconstructed the question. He said Republicans were gonna kick and scream this election season over social issues like gay marriage. He said those issues were selected simply to divide people, andmy words heremake Democrats lose.
Meanwhile, Edwards said such discussions only distract voters from the important issues in America, including the fact that over 30 million people in our country live in poverty. Then, staring straight at Hume, he quickly addressed the gay marriage question and put it out of sight, even if part of his answer included a few factual missteps. It was a damn impressive performance, and it showed an ability to wrestle in the mud and come away clean.
Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that Edwards has finally addressed that weird hair flip near his part?
Reach Bruce Dobie at email@example.com.